Russia and the Pogroms
Although the Haskalah movement was active in Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia, the civil emancipation of the Jews in no way enjoyed the support of the non Jewish population. The Jews of Czarist Russia suffered persecution and discrimination. They were restricted in the areas in which they could reside, and were not equal with other citizens before the law. Czars issues numerous decrees against them, and the priests encouraged hatred of the Jews among the peasantry. This reached a climax toward the end of the 19th century in a series of pogroms. In 1881, after a malicious rumour that the Jews had assassinated the Czar, pogroms took place in the Ukraine in more than 30 towns, the most serious of them in Kiev. Later, on Christmas Day, the Jews of Warsaw were attacked and on Easter, those of Balta. In 1883 there were more pogroms, and in 1891 - 1892 the Jews were expelled from Moscow. The first six years of the 20th century saw another series of hundreds of pogroms, particularly in Kishinev (where 45 Jews were killed and hundreds injured in 1903) and Odessa (over 300 dead and thousands wounded in 1905).
In this atmosphere a proposal for a debate in the Duma on the abolition of the Pale of Settlement was shelved, while a suggestion to exclude the Jews from military service was not accepted for the sole reason that the government could not dispense with the service of about 40 000 Jewish soldiers. In 1913 the government held a blood libel trial in Kiev, accusing Mendel Beilis, a Jew, of having murdered a Christian child to use his blood for ritual purposes. Anti Semitic propaganda was intensified and the government mobilised its police and judicial cadres to obtain his conviction. A strong defense was mustered which concluded in the jury, consisting of 7 Russian peasants, acquitting the accused.
These manifestations of Antisemitism discouraged even those who had pinned all their hopes on emancipation. Jewish youth reacted by joining either the revolutionary movement, or the Jewish nationalist groups. Mass emigration took place and the Jewish population of the United States grew from some 280 000 in 1880, to about 4 500 000 in 1925. The Jews of Eastern Europe had always traditionally looked forward to the return to the Promised Land, and the pogroms, especially in regions ridden by poverty, gave a major impetus to practical Zionist activity. Groups such as the Bilu (founded in 1882) promoted settlement in Palestine.
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